Tweets, posts, videos, memes, messages, emails… the world seems to be talking all the time, but does the message ever get through clearly? That’s what authors and communication professionals Adri Bruckner, Anjana Menon and Marybeth Sandell set out to help you with in their book, What’s Your Story? The Essential Business Storytelling Handbook.
Storytelling is essential to businesses. Whether you’re a freelancer looking for gigs, a startup trying to raise the next round of funding, or a multinational trying to sell more cereal, it’s the narrative that helps you reach the right audience and your goal. The authors explain how every interaction—from a company report to a tweet—is actually a conversation with the people who will ultimately build your brand, and is an opportunity to guide the story you want to tell.
Just as there’s a glut of communication tools, there’s a surfeit of books on “effective communication”, and this could easily fall into that massive pile—except that it’s an easy read. Over and over, the authors advise keeping it simple, and they have. All three authors are former journalists who have made a successful shift into corporate communications and content strategy, which informs much of the structure and content of the book.
They start with the basics of getting the message right and use of visuals and data, move to the different media channels and how to understand as well as use them, and finally explain how to use these techniques and channels for different purposes—whether you’re communicating as a leader to a team or as a company to shareholders. Much of this may seem like old ground, especially for those in the communications field and industry veterans, but this isn’t necessarily a book to read from cover to cover.
A thoughtful and detailed contents section guides the user—and this is a book for a “user” rather than a reader—to topics that he or she would want to know at a particular moment, from using augmented and virtual reality to creating engaging corporate social responsibility reports.
The writers make an important point about the growing use of sound and images in storytelling; it’s ubiquitous now but “we’ve all been guilty of taking these things for granted as we try and retrofit them to our story delivery rather than reimagine the very art of storytelling when everything around seems to be in a state of flux.” Communicating effectively has never been easier—or more complicated. There are a multitude of means to get the message out, but being heard is harder than ever. And “that’s where our storytelling skills will always remain more valuable than that of machines,” they write, adding that people always love stories about people.
It’s why they advocate putting the customer, and not just a product or feature, at the centre of all communications.
What’s Your Story? The Essential Business Storytelling Handbook is a practitioner’s guide, dotted with real-life examples and scenarios, that would help entrepreneurs, small business owners, independent consultants and freelancers,who ca n’t hire full-time communications professionals but need to build a business narrative. And even if you’re not yet ready to go to town with your story, it tells you how to prepare for the time when you will, by putting people at the heart of the tale.
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